EMBATTLED junior minister Richard Azan yesterday capitulated amid deafening calls for his resignation for his role in the illegal construction and misuse of 10 shops at the Spalding Market in Clarendon.
Jamaica House reported Azan's decision to resign as minister of state in the Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing, only hours after Opposition Leader Andrew Holness warned that his side would not continue sitting with Azan, as a junior minister, in the House of Representatives after noon on Tuesday.
"Good sense has now prevailed," Holness commented after being told of Azan's decision. He said he could not understand why he had waited so long to resign.
Azan's resignation letter, addressed to Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and released by the Office of the Prime Minister yesterday, stated that he would stand down from his ministerial position, but he would continue to "fight vigorously to clear his name", in the meantime.
He claimed his name had been defamed by Contractor General Dirk Harrison's "characterisation of corruption and by utterances in sections of the media".
He said that he had not received any financial benefit from the project, which took him down: the illegal construction of 10 shops at the Spalding Market in his North West Clarendon constituency and the illegal collection of fees from the tenants. Azan had admitted to instructing a private contractor, John Bryant, to construct the shops last September, without the permission of the Clarendon Parish Council.
Four hours earlier, Holness told a press briefing at his West King's House Road office that if Azan did not resign by next Tuesday, the Jamaica Labour Party would not co-operate with Government inside and outside of Gordon House.
Holness said that by refusing to remove Azan, following the tabling in Parliament of the Contractor General's report on the illegal construction and renting of the shops, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller had signalled to her ministers that it is not an indictment on Azan.
He added that it was a far greater indictment on the prime minister in keeping Azan in her Cabinet and giving the green light to her ministers, that they can act in ways that breach public trust and faith and retain their positions in the Government.
"In effect, the prime minister is now sitting over a corrupt Government," Holness stated, noting that the matter has now reached the international press via the British Broadcasting Corporation.
Holness said, however, that the Opposition will ensure that the country's system of government is held to the highest standards of public trust and accountability.